Only one guy in the world has the gall to dish out $50 million for PR and publicity: yep, Uncle Sam.
It turns out a $50 million public relations contract — to promote the Thunderbirds, the Air Force aerial stunt team — was tainted by improper influence and preferential treatment. Nothing blatantly criminal enough for anyone to go to jail, apparently. Just semi-corrupt business as usual. Details here.
But what really galls me is the idea that our military is shelling out that kind of money just to promote the T-birds. Typical government waste. Now just imagine how many more of your tax dollars are squandered on the team’s jet fuel, aircraft maintenance, pilots’ and mechanics’ salaries, etc. (Did you know that an Air Force pilot earns $75,000+ ?)
The total budget for this foolishness must be in the hundreds of millions of dollars — double if the Navy’s Blue Angels are still flying. All for something that adds zilch to our national security, and does nothing to help win the two wars this nation is fighting.
Finally, as a 20-year media veteran, I have to question how difficult it is to publicize the Thunderbirds’ appearances? A diamond-shaped squadron of jet fighters screaming overhead is pretty hard to ignore, folks. The media will be there anyway, $50 million or no $50 million.
Promoting the squadron’s appearances is a public relations slam-dunk. I’m sure other PR specialists — like me — could do the job for, say, a measly $25 million. Whatever happened to awarding the job to the low bidder?
Part of me wonders why my firm never wins fat contracts like that. Then I remember — oh yeah, it’s because I have a conscience.
What do you think? Am I all wet? Should our military be spending hundreds of millions to promote unnecessary fluff like the Thunderbirds? Or should Uncle Sam use that money for more important things — like bailing out the poor millionaires at Bear Sterns? Or do the Thunderbirds serve some useful purpose?